Are we only getting half of the Lance Armstrong comeback story from the UCI?
The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) said on Monday that an anti-doping expert critical of its passport program in fact reviewed samples from Lance Armstrong during his time on the Biological Passport review panel, and that Dr. Michael Ashenden had signed off on those tests as normal.
But a person close to the passport test results told VeloNews on Monday that the UCI was selectively releasing information in order to discredit Ashenden, and that another set of tests — taken during the 2009 and 2010 Tours de France — proves clear evidence of blood manipulation.
Ashenden, who sat on the UCI’s Biological Passport review panel before resigning in 2012, had previously questioned the depth of the program and said he didn’t review any Armstrong samples during the Texan’s ill-fated comeback. The UCI, though, said he did in fact review passport data from Armstrong, based on nine tests from October of 2008 to March of 2009. Ashenden, the UCI said, signed off on the Armstrong file as normal, with no abnormalities.
But here’s the rub. Ashenden appears wrong in his claim that he never reviewed an Armstrong test in the comeback years, yes, but, according to that same source close to the testing data, Ashenden never reviewed any relevant samples that would logically contain evidence of blood manipulation. No Tours de France, namely.
“They now are putting out selective test results,” said the person with knowledge of the tests who declined to go on record due to the current political climate in cycling. “You’ve got to have all the data points to make a full conclusion, and what [the UCI] released today… maybe that was all they had at that point, but the panel should have looked at it in 2009 at the end of the Tour, when he was a third-place finisher.”
Looking at those test results, however, is easier said than done. In the case of the post-comeback Armstrong samples, it was made clear to VeloNews that the UCI is in control of the tests from the 2009 and 2010, and hasn’t been eager to offer them up. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, for example, was forced to extract the data from the World Anti-Doping Agency for its Armstrong investigation, as the UCI wouldn’t willingly part with it.
USADA CEO Travis Tygart has since said that there is a one-in-a-million chance that those blood profiles were not evidence of blood manipulation.
When Armstrong chose to forego arbitration with USADA in the case, the agency recommended the disqualification of his 2009 and 2010 Tour results, third and 23rd, respectively. The UCI didn’t appeal USADA’s decision, meaning, effectively, that the body didn’t dispute the findings, at least on record.
The UCI did not immediately return a request for comment.